Kolkata: Eighteen Left and other parties on Friday called a 12-hour general strike in West Bengal on November 28 to protest the harassment faced by people following the Union government’s demonetisation move.
However, state Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee opposed the strike call.
The 18 parties held a meeting at the Communist Party of India-Marxist headquarters, Muzaffar Bhavan, during the day to zero in on a statewide general strike from 6 a.m. on Monday to press for a charter of demands that included supply of adequate smaller denomination currency to banks, ATMs and post offices to provide succour to the masses reeling under a cash crunch.
CPI-M leader and Left Front Chairman Biman Bose told the media that the central government should recover the Rs 11 lakh crore loans, which have not been repaid to the banks and use the money to write off all farm loans, allow people to exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 old notes until December 30 or until the time alternative arrangements are made to supply the required quantum of currency notes.
The parties also demanded confiscation of all black money stashed abroad to strike at the root of the black money problem.
“If sincere and pragmatic steps are taken against black money, that needs to be supported, but not the way it has been done. The abrupt decision to ban Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has adversely hit the daily lives of all sections of people, particularly the middle class, workers, peasants and agricultural labourers.
“Even after 17 days of the decision, bank and financial services have been crippled. Daily wagers, fishermen, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) workers are unable to make both ends meet due to lack of cash. The rural economy has come to a grinding halt,” said Bose.
He alleged that farmers were unable to sell their crops, and buy fertilisers for the next crop
Expressing apprehension that the cash crisis could worsen in the next few days, he said industrial production had decreased and small businesses were hard hit.
Bose said that bank, ATM services, post offices, hospital and medical clinics, ambulance, milk, water and power supplies, newspapers and marriages would be out of the purview of the strike.
The parties attending the meeting include the CPI-M, Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Janata Dal-United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Nationalist Congress Party.
Soon after Bose’s media meet, Banerjee took to twitter to oppose the strike.
“In Delhi at the meeting of Opposition parties, a Bandh (shutdown) was never discussed or agreed to. We do not support any Bandh call,” she said.
Banerjee appealed to everybody to stand by the citizens in their hour of crisis.
“People are suffering so I appeal to all to help citizens and stand by them at this hour of crisis,” she said in another tweet.
Trinamool leader and state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim lashed against the CPI-M, saying it was “trying to fish in troubled waters”.
“They know they don’t have the strength to bring out protest rallies. They want Bengal to regress. People of Bengal don’t support such strikes. Our leader has called a rally in the city on November 28. All sections of people would rather join that rally and protest against the Modi government,” he said.
But the Congress extend moral support to the strike. “All of us are protesting. If they want to call a strike, we will give them moral support.”
However, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh lambasted the Left.
“They are finished. So they are now trying to cling on to a straw even. They want to hid black money. So they are going against the people’s interest to create disruption,” he said.